Research View -- Winter 2010
Research View is a science and scholarship newsletter of The University of Montana.
Vol. 12 No. 1 From Mice to Men U V Innovation & Scholarship at The University of Montana IEW an IV form, so this is a new formulation that's being administered for a new application � stroke. This has never been done before." Sinapis Pharma will file an Investigational New Drug application with the FDA in February, and Poulsen expects Phase I trials to begin shortly thereafter and be completed by summer. During the trials, researchers test the new drug on a small group of people (20 to 80) to evaluate its safety, determine dosage and identify side effects. "Basically we give them the drug in an IV and draw blood from them every couple of hours and monitor their blood pressure and heart rate and such," Poulsen says. He expects the Phase I trials to go smoothly because methamphetamine has been around a long time, and there is a lot of documentation about what humans can and can't handle. "We don't have to deal with a lot of the steps and hurdles encountered with the development of a new drug," he says. If Phase I goes well, the process RESEARCH www.umt.edu/urelations/rview WINTER 2010 Damage-reducing stroke drug moving to human trials niversity of Montana researchers have learned that low doses of methamphetamine given to rodents after strokes reduce brain damage and impairment by 50 percent or more. Now a UM research spinoff company, Sinapis Pharma, intends to start human Phase I clinical trials of the drug application in coming months. "We have had fabulous results with rodent models," says David Poulsen, a research associate professor in UM's Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences and chief scientific officer for the new company. "If we have comparable results with people, this could become the standard of care." On the street, meth is a dangerous, addictive and illegal drug. However, the Food and Drug Administration first approved prescription methamphetamine for clinical uses in 1944, and now it is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obesity and narcolepsy. Poulsen and his postdoctoral student Tom Rau have since discovered the protective effect of low-dose meth for strokes. "The drug already has been approved for treating ADHD in children and obesity in adults as an oral dose," Poulsen says. "What we are doing is giving the drug in David Poulsen, a scientist in UM's College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, poses with images of sliced rat brains. The top row was treated with methamphetamine six hours after a stroke, while the bottom row received saline. White areas reveal dead or damaged tissue. will move to Phase II, when patients experiencing strokes at hospitals will be asked to give informed consent to test the drug. "Some people will say no, and some will say yes, and some won't meet the criteria," Poulsen says. "We are talking about hundreds of patients for this kind of trial, so we would do it at large metropolitan areas across the United States, but I would like St. Patrick Hospital (and Health Sciences Center in Missoula) to be one of the places we recruit patients. I know I would want the drug if I was having a stroke." The researcher hopes to start Phase II trials by the end of the year. About 60 different drugs have been tested as neuroprotective agents over the years, and they all have failed. Poulsen says this is because a cascade of pathological events occurs during a stroke, and most of those drugs target only one event, which is insufficient to tip the balance to protection. Stroke -- continued back page Professor Betsy Bach examines "chosen" family relationships. Voluntary Kin Researcher studies friends who become like family W 2 hen a mother lost her adult son to cancer, she turned to her son's best friend, Mike, for solace. He was already close to the family, sharing Sunday meals and appreciating having a substitute mother in his life, because his own had died when he was a boy. Shortly before her son died, the mother sent this e-mail to Mike: "Are we going to lose you too when this is all over, because I don't think I could stand to lose you, too?" "Mom, I would never let you lose two sons that way � I am your son forever," he replied. That story falls within one of 110 interviews delving into the significance of the people in our lives who are not family but serve that role. When is a close friend like a sister or a brother? Who would you call in the middle of the night in an emergency? RESEARCH VIEW l Professor Betsy Wackernagel Bach, chair of UM's Department of Communication Studies, teamed up with two other scholars to identify and define "voluntary kin" � the people in our lives who feel like family but who aren't related by blood or law. Their results will be published in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships this summer. "In a practical sense, identification of voluntary kin allows people to understand and name the kind of relationship they are in for their edification and selfawareness," Bach says. "Once you understand the kind of relationship you are in, you can talk about it in a more coherent fashion." Bach's own experiences sparked her interest in the subject. While toasting longtime friendships around a bountiful Thanksgiving table, she felt something else in addition to well-being � an investigative curiosity. It's easy to imagine spilling your personal stories effortlessly to Bach in an interview about friends who are like family. She's humorous, unpretentious and sets people at ease, despite her highpowered leadership roles at the University and nationally. Bach served as the 2009 president of the National Communication Association, with its more than 8,000 educators, practitioners and students representing every state and more than 20 countries. She has helped guide this group in a variety of different roles for almost a decade. Throughout her career, Bach has focused on communication as a practical tool for navigating complex relations, whether around a dinner table, in a corporate boardroom or even at a crime scene. In fact, Bach's first job out of college took her to the streets of Holland, Mich., working for the police department. Hired to mediate neighborhood and domestic disputes, she soon trained as a police officer so she could pack a gun and more safely apply her negotiation skills in tense settings. WINTER 2010 C O M M U N I C AT I O N Back at that contrastingly warm Thanksgiving gathering in Missoula, Bach wondered how her group differed from an immediate family. Does it take another set of communication skills? What happens when a couple divorces? Who stays and who goes from the table? At a fundamental level, what do you call this assembly of close friends without confusing people, since family still denotes the traditional definition? To explore how people define and navigate chosen relationships that are more amorphous than blood and legal kinship, Bach and researchers from both the University of Nebraska and the University of Iowa surveyed participants ranging in ages from 19 to 76 in their three states. This first phase of voluntary kin research, conducted on a shoestring budget, generated 1,500 single-spaced pages of recorded interviews. Sifting through the data, four kinds of voluntary kin relationships emerged that the researchers called substitute, supplemental, convenience and extended family. "Substitute families are usually formed after the death of a family member," Bach says. The mother who lost her son illustrates this type of voluntary kin relationship. In rare instances, a substitute family results from estrangement. A gay man in the study reported a close friend who became like a brother to him after his own family cut him off. By far the most common kind of voluntary kin falls under the supplemental family category, often the result of living far away from blood relatives. That's where the Thanksgiving table comes in. "This is particularly true of the boomer generation," Bach says. "I'm fascinated by the generational difference. In 10 years, supplemental families may not be as widespread." She explains that since Sept. 11, 2001, more students have attended colleges closer to home than in previous years, so families may not be as dispersed as they once were. With the advent of cell phones and social media, college students now keep in closer contact with their families, which may lessen their desire to stray too far from home. The generational difference also shows up in the third type of voluntary kin � a family of convenience that tends to be limited to a life stage, such as college or just after high school, when friends share rental homes to save on expenses. The first three categories � substitute, supplemental and convenience � fall within what Bach calls a deficit model, where kinship comes from an unmet need. In contrast, the fourth, extended (voluntary) family aligns closely with the African proverb: "It takes a village to raise a child." Think of that favorite next-door neighbor or the adult friends of the family who became Aunt Julie or Uncle Bob. Ultimately, why does it matter that we name and define voluntary kin? Bach points out that chosen family relationships date back to the first century, yet to be relevant to our lives, we need to clarify what family means today. Once we recognize and identify voluntary kin, we're ready to give more thought to our communication with them. UM's Department of Communication Aristotle, while the leaves touch every aspect of modern life. Communication is the focus of the second phase of voluntary kin research under way. The 50 participants were asked how they converse with their bloodrelated family compared to voluntary kin, whether in person, by phone, e-mail, text or old-fashioned letters. Bach is analyzing the recent surveys and interviews while on sabbatical this semester. She also will start examining whether chosen kin influences organizational communication. "I want to find out how voluntary kin relationships form on the job," she says. "If so, what is the impact on work life?" Applying academic theory to practical, real-life situations is important to Bach, who has helped higher education, health care, corporate and nonprofit organizations improve communication in complex settings. Bach often demonstrates her facilitative skills in the positions she has held at UM, where she served as assistant provost for enrollment management and retention and for two years as the interim dean of the Davidson Honors College. She also founded and directed UM's Center for Teaching Excellence. Her teaching prowess earned UM's Distinguished Teacher Award in 1991. In one of her many academic endeavors, Bach is co-author of a case study about, naturally, a Thanksgiving dinner. The fictitious characters and plot center on a divorce that has rocked the annual ritual of close friends. The underlying purpose of the story is to illustrate many of the findings from voluntary kin research. The result? Bach and her fellow authors have ladled up a feast of palatable data. Here's a sample that sums up a common denominator among the people interviewed about voluntary kin, an intuitive feeling of connection: Franco rose from his chair and held his wine glass high. He looked around the table at these people he loved. "What is it about holidays that bring out all these strong feelings? Well, all I know is that we are family. A changed one, but family nonetheless." R V -- By Deborah Richie Oberbillig RESEARCH VIEW l Studies focuses on all forms of discourse, which is vital to people's everyday interactions, whether at home or at work. Students also study rhetoric that emphasizes social movements and environmental controversy. The roots of the discipline extend as far back as WINTER 2010 3 Topics Native American Research Lab hunts answers at the edge of life Hot W ith his right hand gripping the climbing rope, Michael Ceballos crouches on the tilting rock and leans out over the volcanic cauldron of bubbling mud. His black braid is tucked under a blue bandana knotted pirate style. Holding the test tube in a protective glove, he lowers it into the primeval ooze to retrieve a precious sample. The mud pool is boiling and highly acidic. It's not a friendly environment. For Ceballos, a research assistant professor in UM's Division of Biological Sciences, collecting the sample marks the start of a long day. He climbs back up the red baked rim of the hot springs deep in the Costa Rican jungle, unhooks from a tree and gets to work. "If you imagine spending hours in a very hot steamy sauna that smells like rotten eggs, that's what it's like," he says of his fieldwork in Costa Rica and El Salvador. Most samples contain archaea, single-celled organisms lacking nuclei that live in extreme environments. These ancient life forms may hold secrets to the origins of life on Earth, including how viruses develop. Hyperthermophilic archaea and their viruses have become the primary subject of study at UM's Native American Research Lab, which Ceballos directs. During grueling 12- to 16-hour days, Ceballos has collected and prepared samples with meticulous care so they will survive the journey on foot, by rental car over treacherous roads and by plane back to Montana. To keep the tough, yet fragile archaea (Above) UM researcher Michael Ceballos collects a sample from a hot pool of bubbling mud in Costa Rica. His quarry are microscopic archaea, such as this one (lower right) found in El Salvador. The creatures may offer insights into disease virulence or enhancing ethanol fuel production. alive, Ceballos puts them "in a coma" by raising the pH level just slightly with a calcium carbonate buffer. Raising the pH allows them to lower metabolic processes until he and his team can replicate natural conditions in the laboratory. Back at his UM lab, flasks containing archaea from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Italy, Japan, Russia and nearby Yellowstone slosh rhythmically in an incubator-shaker set at 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the flasks hold uninfected archaeal strains. Others contain cultures of archaea infected with thermotolerant viruses isolated from different sulfuric hot springs worldwide. By studying virus-host interactions at such a primitive level, Ceballos and fellow researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the evolution of virulence and apply this knowledge to the study of emergent infectious viral diseases. Archaea play another vital research role at the lab as well. In August 2009, Ceballos received a two-year, $300,000, rapid technology development grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate how archaea may hold the key to enhancing efficiency in cellulosic ethanol production. As a promising source for cheap fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil, cellulosic ethanol substrates can be wood waste, grass or a host of other available natural products. The trick to making cost-effective ethanol that can replace gasoline is to efficiently produce the fermentable simple sugars from cellulose bound in the substrates. But there's a hitch. Scientists have to separate the cellulose (a complex sugar) from lignin, a complex polymer found in wood, and efficiently convert the cellulose to simple fermentable sugars, such as glucose. "Think of lignocellulose like matted dog hair you're trying to tease apart," Ceballos explains. Currently, cellulosic substrates are processed with pretreatments such as high-temperature steam explosion and acidic washes to loosen up the ligno- NARL logo by Corky Clairmont (Salish) and Michael Ceballos 4 RESEARCH VIEW l WINTER 2010 BIOLOGY cellulosic matrix. Then, enzymes (proteins working as a designer and drafter on students alike with an interest in that catalyze chemical reactions) such as the NASA space station project while microbiology or biochemistry, what could cellulases and hemi-cellulases are used completing his undergraduate degree be better than looking for answers at to deconstruct the cellulose. However, in physics and math, Ceballos knows the edge of where life can exist? While enzymes don't work well in the heat and the value of hands-on student research much more time is spent among flasks acid of the pretreatment processes. Enter experiences in complementing the and petri dishes than leaning over heat and acid-loving archaea, featuring scientific theory presented in classrooms. steaming, acidic hot springs, Ceballos enzymes that work best under exactly "Unfortunately, most tribal colleges lack strives to make the research tangible and those kinds of conditions. access to state-of-the-art instrumentation meaningful to students. Cutting-edge and ancient. Both terms and faculty with research expertise � On a large wall of the Native American describe what's happening at UM's Native particularly Native American science Research Lab, kept toasty warm by American Research Lab, the only one of faculty who can serve as research the water baths filled with its singleits kind in the nation, and part of a larger mentors and role models," he says. celled study subjects, are two rows of emphasis on Native American education "Helping students successfully transfer photos. They feature students who have at the University. With the lab's dual focus from tribal colleges to the University was presented research posters at national on viral ecology and sustainable fuels, the my first goal." conferences, who are listed as coscience is relevant to solving today's most Today, students work under the authors on scientific papers or who have urgent problems. The choice of studying mentorship of Ceballos and visiting completed undergraduate or graduate ancient life forms also seems fitting for a assistant professor Don Benn (Navajo). degrees. Some students have continued lab dedicated to increasing the number Benn is co-directing the lab in 2009on as graduate research fellows, such of indigenous scientists coming from 10 to allow Ceballos time to complete as Joshua Marceau (Salish), who studies host-virus interactions, and Meredith cultures whose legacy of scientific inquiry his doctoral dissertation on archaea Berthelson (Blackfeet), now developing dates back thousands of years. virus-host interactions as part of the mathematical models of thermophile "There's such a rich heritage of science degree requirements in the Integrative host-virus systems. in pre-Columbian Native America, and Microbiology and Biochemistry Program. "I have a whole other row to add to the yet today Native Americans are the most "We must have faculty role models who underrepresented minority group in the share a similar background with students. Wall of Fame," says a proud Ceballos. Every photo demonstrates the success of sciences," Ceballos says. "Several Native It emphasizes to students that science is the lab as more Native American students American cultures prior to the European part of Native American culture, history join the ranks of scientists equipped conquest had strong science education and heritage," he says. "And, yet, at the centers. Significant accomplishments in same time, I believe it is very important to with the tools, experience and high-level learning to succeed and become mentors mathematics, astronomy, pharmacology, also engage non-Native and international to the next generation. R physics and more are part of the students to facilitate cross-cultural V historical record, and yet the history of exchange and collaboration." -- By Deborah Richie Oberbillig pre-conquest Native American science is For Native American and non-Native not given proper credit or treatment in our modern educational systems." Ceballos, whose paternal family is Tepehuan (O'dami) and maternal family is mixedblood Choctaw/Scottish and Cherokee/French, is passionate in his support for a lab that already has provided handson science experience and mentoring to more than 60 students, two-thirds of whom are Native American and represent more than 25 tribal nations. The doors opened at UM in 2007. Ceballos had the idea of developing a Nativeserving lab first as a faculty member at Salish Kootenai College and then at UM, where he secured more than $1 million in grants from NSF and NASA to start the Ceballos (right) helps UM senior Chelsea Morales inoculate a culture in the Native NARL research facility. American Research Lab. Morales, a Gros Ventre tribal member, grew up in Harlem, Mont. From his own experience A "Wall of Fame" of previous students who excelled at NARL can be seen in the background. RESEARCH VIEW l WINTER 2010 5 Protein Picture Research offers magic carpet ride to the atomic level I magine you're a scientist transported to an alien planet. Here exists a tiny device miraculously able to organize and command the cells in any animal. Scrape your hand and the device rushes new skin cells to cover the wound. Conceive a child and it establishes construction sites for embryonic development. Suffer a tumor and it tells new blood vessels to stay away so the cancer can't grow. Wouldn't you want to know how the device is built and how it works? Wouldn't you want to be able to make one yourself? Welcome to the laboratory of UM structural biologist Kl�ra Briknarov�. No, Briknarov�, though born abroad in the Czech Republic, is not a space traveler. But she does study an alien environment replete with mysterious, miraculous machines: the human body. Inside the nucleus of every cell of a human being are the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make up our DNA, itself divisible into some 20,000 to 35,000 genes. Genetic information is copied into RNA, which then serves as a template to make proteins, Briknarov�'s research subject, biological molecules (Above) UM chemistry Assistant Professor Kl�ra Briknarov� works with a 600 MHz spectrometer, which helps her laboratory visualize the structure of the fibronectin protein. Ropes secure the device in the unlikely event of an earthquake. (Right) This model depicts negatively and positively charged areas on the protein's surface. not to be confused with their collective products � steak, say � in our diet. "There are lots of types of proteins in any living creature, be it a virus, bacteria, plant or animal," Briknarov� says. "They make up and maintain much of the body and tell all our cells what they're supposed to do." An example of a specific protein with a specialized function is hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from head to toe. Less well-known but no less important is our imagined "alien" device, the protein fibronectin, which forms a kind of "carpet" outside cells where they may gather and organize into tissues or blood vessels. "Functional fibronectin sends signals inside cells that may indicate to them that they should stay put, move, divide or evolve into a different type," Briknarov� says. Without it, then, wounds may heal slower and less completely, if at all; embryos die in the womb; and experimental anti-cancer therapies 6 RESEARCH VIEW l WINTER 2010 CHEMISTRY are less effective. So important is fibronectin, in fact, that last year the National Science Foundation awarded Briknarov� a $788,000 Early Career Development Program grant for her study of the protein. The question they and she want answered: What is in this carpet? For starters, like all proteins, fibronectin is made of a combination of the 20 kinds of simple organic compounds called amino acids. "Imagine a 20-letter alphabet with very long words," Briknarov� says. "In this alphabet, fibronectin is 2,400 letters long." Her lab studies only a tiny fragment � about 100 linked amino acids, a couple thousand atoms in space � of the larger tongue twister. "Separate parts of proteins adopt unique three-dimensional structures," Briknarov� says. "We try to figure out how this piece of the protein looks at the atomic level. How are its atoms arranged? How do those atoms interact with other atoms when two different proteins encounter each other? How do the proteins rearrange upon such encounters?" The lab answers these questions using a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which can identify distinct chemical entities in a molecule by their respective magnetic properties. Because such entities are literally atomic in size � 100 billion billion of them still weigh less than a gram � seeing and separating signals requires a magnetic field as much as 500,000 times that of Earth. Enter UM's 600 MHz spectrometer, one of two purchased five years ago at a cost of $1.4 million. By appearance, it's a large metal vat, roughly 9 feet tall, about the size and shape of a small water tower or stainless steel tank of a microbrewery. "That's the magnet," Briknarov� says, explaining the vat contains a coil through which current passes without resistance. Called superconductivity, this effect necessitates regular additions of liquid nitrogen and liquid helium around the coil to maintain a temperature lower than 5 degrees Kelvin (negative 451 degrees Fahrenheit). Briknarov� and her students lower ultra-thin glass tubes, each holding 0.6 milliliters of the protein sample, into the middle of the machine, where the magnetic field is strongest. Then a wide cabinet of accompanying electronics � picture an advanced phone-switching station � allows Briknarov� and her team to send electromagnetic impulses through the entire setup and measure the samples' telltale magnetic oscillations. UM chemistry graduate student Jessica Glicken analyzes data from UM's 600 MHz spectrometer. Each dot in the data spectrum on the right computer screen represents a different amino acid in the protein. This information is used to generate 3-D computer models of the fibronectin protein, such as the one on the left computer monitor. "Protein fragments contain many different atoms, and each atom will give a distinct signal," Briknarov� says. "We look at signals and gather information from every separate atom in our fragment. From these results, we can determine the protein's structure and dynamics." Call it a full-body scanner for molecules. "The technology is quite similar to an MRI," Briknarov� says. "We're trying to generate three-dimensional models." The hope is to move from knowing the carpet's constituent elements to how it's arranged � and rearranged � inside us. "Most molecules aren't rigid," Briknarov� says. "They can do all sorts of gymnastics. Very often those motions" � for example, opening a lid � "are important for their function." The fragment of fibronectin the lab works with is called anastellin. It's important because fibronectin actually takes two forms: soluble and insoluble. The former travels fluidly � it's present in our blood � rather than staying put and taking charge. "To make `real' insoluble fibronectin � our carpet � you need cells, and what they do is complex and unclear," Briknarov� says. "But when you add this fragment of fibronectin � anastellin � to soluble fibronectin molecules, it can produce insoluble fibrils. Using anastellin, we can make a similar reaction without cells in a test tube." As anastellin is considered for use in clinical trials, the UM lab's work will help scientists better understand how it and fibronectin operate at the atomic level. Regardless of other research, Briknarov�'s experiments should illuminate proteins' hidden inner workings. "In biochemistry textbooks, proteins are depicted as one structure," Briknarov� says. "But the structures move, breathe and partially open. Our work should provide some insight into how these molecules move � and how that affects their lives." Lives? Briknarov� backtracks. "I don't think of them as living creatures, but there are lots of dynamics," she says. "They can have complicated and intriguing structures. They move and interact, stick to each other and change how they look. They're made and they're eliminated, so you could say they die." Philosophies of existence aside, Briknarov� most enjoys the puzzlesolving aspect of her work, common to a field combining math, physics, biology, chemistry, computer science and engineering. "The techniques we use are themselves very physical, and you also need quite a bit of analytical thinking," she says. "Think of my data as a jigsaw puzzle. From which atom is each signal?" To illustrate the point, Briknarov� points to the gray and black tile-patterned carpeting covering her office floor. "I'm studying little fuzz balls," she laughs. "Some pieces may look exactly the same, some pieces are missing and you're trying to put it all together so that it fits and you have a picture of a small piece of the fibronectin carpet." R V -- By Jeremy Smith RESEARCH VIEW l WINTER 2010 7 PHARMACY Stroke -- continued from front "In order to have good therapeutic efficacy, you have to affect multiple targets," he says. "Well, it turns out that is what methamphetamine is doing. It's affecting inflammation, cell death, excitotoxicity. It's clearly hitting multiple targets." Poulsen has scores of multihued images on his computer showing how rodent brains that have suffered stroke look when treated with methamphetamine versus those that didn't receive the drug. Whether the drug is administered immediately, six hours or even 12 hours after the stroke, the reduction in damage is striking and clearly visible. The researchers also gauge the functional dexterity of the animals with tests such as Postdoctoral researcher Tom Rau handles rodent measuring how brain tissue in a Skaggs Building laboratory. long it takes them to walk across a beam or pull adhesive tape off their paws. the process continues successfully, the The animals that have had strokes and company will need another $6 million to received the drug do significantly better $8 million for Phase II trials. on the tests. UM has a standard formula for any Poulsen says trying to take his research royalties generated by its intellectual from the lab to the business world properties such as the new drug has been quite an adventure. While application: Half goes to the faculty working at St. Patrick Hospital in the inventors and half to the University. And Montana Neuroscience Institute, a of UM's share, one-third of that is made collaboration between UM and the available to enhance the inventors' hospital, he met two surgeons, Nick campus research operation. Chandler and Peter VonDoersten, who But will there be any royalties? Poulsen became principal owners of Sinapis admits it's still a long shot at this point. Pharma. Chandler chairs the new "But our whole goal is to try to create company and has since moved to startup companies that stay here in Jacksonville, Fla. Montana," he says. "This has been fun. "Right now we are basically a virtual I get as excited about the business of company," Poulsen says. "I'm doing the science as the science of science. It's research aspects, and Nick's in Florida exciting to have the chance to develop managing things. Our CEO, Don Picker something that actually gets into the in New Jersey, is a serial entrepreneur clinic and changes lives." R V who has taken several drugs through the process and moved them to market. Al -- By Cary Shimek Henry, who is on our board of directors, is in Chicago and has run several venture capital funds that were focused on the life sciences and drug development. So we are spread all over." He says $350,000 in "critical" state funding from the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology allowed them to generate the preliminary data to reach this point. Sinapis also has raised about $500,000 in private equity to fund Phase I trials. If Campus to host major undergraduate research conference U M has accepted more than 2,500 abstract proposals for the 24th annual National Conference of Undergraduate Research, to be held on campus April 15-17, according to conference chair and chemistry Professor Garon Smith. "Just because we've accepted them doesn't mean we'll get them to come, so this represents the highest possible number of presentations," Smith says. "It's worth noting, however, that some of these presentations involve more than one presenter ... It's going to be big." NCUR is the nation's premier venue for undergraduate research. It typically boasts presenters from 45 states and 300 institutions. Besides traditional science topics and poster sessions, it includes fine arts, humanities and social science offerings such as student dancing, musical performances, plays and films. Presentations at this year's NCUR range in topic from "Low Cost Solar Water Heating System Design and Comparison" to "The Rehabilitation of Former Child Soldiers in Africa: What Makes for a Successful Program?" UM last hosted the conference in 2000, when 1,500 people attended. The event has grown in popularity since then, with 2,400 participating in the 2009 conference at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. "There is hardly a better way to showcase your university than hosting NCUR," Smith says. "If you want to highlight UM as a place where undergraduate research is a hallmark, this is the way to do it." He says the 2000 conference turned a profit, which funded a program that offers $1,500 grants to UM undergraduate research and humanities projects. The program is administered by the Davidson Honors College. R V Research View is published twice a year by the offices of the Vice President for Research and Development and University Relations at The University of Montana. Send questions, comments or suggestions to Cary Shimek, managing editor and designer, 330 Brantly Hall, Missoula, MT 59812 (406-243-5914; email@example.com). Contributing editors are Brianne Burrowes, Brenda Day, Jenny Harris, Rita Munzenrider, Jennifer Sauer and Allison Squires. Todd Goodrich is the primary photographer. For more information, call Judy Fredenberg in the research and development office at 406-243-6670. The newsletter is online at http://www.umt.edu/urelations/rview.